Vincent S. Moore Presents:
Welcome back to the new and improved Omnium Gatherum.
As you dear readers scroll up and down and take a look, you will notice I’ve changed up the column a bit.
The reasons for this are simple. When Marc first told me about the changes he wanted to make to the Comics Waiting Room, I was all for them. However, with a biweekly format, I started to feel that I would be stepping somewhat out of the flow of current events. I was also concerned because I still wanted to do the odd review or mention of a comic or book that I liked, but still be able to shoot my mouth off about any and all topics that crossed my mind. And I wanted to get into talking about politics, given the historic turn the campaign for President of the United States has taken. And a million other things as well.
In other words, I was really thinking about the Omnium Gatherum living up to its name and potential.
This idea of wanting to take my column to the next level so filled my mind that I wasn’t even able to fully envision what that next level would and could look like as I prepared my 13th column. I normally don’t cotton much to superstition, but in this case I will make an exception.
It was in the days after I sent that very late column (again, I must apologize to Marc for that; it was unprofessional of me) that what I was looking would hit me. As with many flashes of brilliance, it happened in the shower. All at once I had the idea of what this column should be put together in a manner of moments.
And so, here we are.
A quick and dirty explanation of the new format of the column is as follows. The Preamble Ramble will be where I shoot off my mouth, warming y’all up for what’s to come. Our Top Story Tonight is the meat and potatoes of the column, where I’ll still talk at length about whatever strikes me as worth spending some serious thought space to discuss. Book(s), Album(s), Comics, and Movie(s) Of The Week are self-explanatory, in these sections I’ll give a quick review of some things old and some things new in the aforementioned areas. Fear And Loathing, Hope And Wonder On The Campaign Trail 2008 will be my uneducated attempt to discuss the politics of the day. The Tempest In A Teapot Of The Week will be where I take to task whatever nonsense (in my view) that is occupying the internets or the news each week, because I think that all too often we spend way too much time bitching and moaning about things that aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. And Good Day, Good Night, And Good Luck, again, should be self explanatory.
That’s the new and improved Omnium Gatherum. Fair and foul, and occasionally funky.
With that explained to you folks, onto . . .
OUR TOP STORY TONIGHT
A Mule And Forty Acres Of My Own, part four
Back In Black
Last year, I wrote a three part series of columns (numbers 6, 7, and 8) discussing race and comics and the literature of the fantastic. When I completed the third part I felt I had said all I wanted to say.
Then real life set in and just enough things have happened in comics to bring the subject back up in my mind.
Like Michael Corleone, just when I thought I was out, they--in this case, the comics industry--pulled me right back into the game.
Recently, black faces (pardon the pun) of differing kinds have shown up in comics. Some not bad, some not so good.
Let’s take Batman’s new girlfriend, Jezebel Jet.
Ah, that name alone is a minefield for black women especially. Given that the myth of the oversexed black female, the Jezebel, still haunts the minds of many sisters and some white folks. So when Grant Morrison decides to use that name and no one at DC catches it or questions whether it should be used, once the connotations are known, we could have a fire of massive proportions in the making.
Or would if there was a large black female audience out there buying and reading superhero comics.
By and large, the subject of Jezebel Jet’s unfortunate name doesn’t even stir up the ire and fire of When Fangirls Attack, Girl-Wonder, or any of the other major blogs or linkblogs of feminist fandom. If it weren’t for the mention on digital-femme.com, I wouldn’t have heard of this issue at all.
Not that it was or is a big issue in any sense.
Looking at with more objective eyes, the Batman has had a number of girlfriends who’ve had names worth of Sir Ian Fleming. Silver St. Cloud. Vicky Vale. Kathy Kane (the original, not the new lesbian one). Vesper Fairchild. While not quite Pussy Galore or Honey Rider, Jezebel Jet is a loaded name for a woman.
Even if she were a woman of wealth and power, as Ms. Jet is. Going from fashion model to chief executive of an African nation.
Does this sound like a stereotype to you?
At best, I would accuse Grant Morrison of purposefully mixing stereotypes (beautiful, red haired black woman, the Jezebel myth incarnate) with elements of modern celebrity and global concerns. A wish fulfillment fantasy of what if Tyra Banks ruled Rwanda, I suppose.
Which fits into his past statements about writing black characters. During the run of the Seven Soldiers project, both with Mister Miracle and the Manhattan Guardian, Morrison said he wanted to write black characters without getting bogged down with the politics of race.
Why, that was mighty white of him to do this.
But Grant gets the benefit of my doubt on this issue.
And this minor gaffe is nothing compared to what Alan Moore has done in League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier.
I mean, the Golliwogg?
In the course of digging up and through Victorian public domain characters, for Moore to find this old relic of another, more Imperialistic time in England’s history and put it on display shows either a whole lot of balls or a complete disregard for the feelings of his readers of color. This stuffed happy minstrel dolly, this soft, fuzzy darkie is a nightmare. And to have him or it or whatever the fuck it is to act as the perfect magical negro, doing what magical negroes do by helping the poor white folks in need is beyond my ability to comprehend.
I was stunned when I saw this thing.
I wonder if this Golliwogg thing was a secret reason behind DC’s problems getting the Black Dossier to print. I mean, could you imagine the NAACP getting ahold of this? That kind of press DC and Time-Warner could do without. So, acting on their knowledge of how twitchy Alan Moore is, DC could have put the right roadblocks in his way to make him the one to leave them and take the League with him.
It might be all well and good that way, besides. If rumors of Moore wanting to reform this creature are to believed. Reform a caricature? How? Short of having it remove its outer appearance to show a more normal looking black man or woman underneath. One that wears such an outlandish get-up and speaks in such an absurd manner so as to confuse and distract those well meaning whites who hold on dearly to their stereotypes. A black person who is brilliant and well spoken (yeah, I said it). Short of doing all that, I don’t see how.
In this case, I just can’t give Alan Moore the benefit of the doubt. For the Golliwogg, he gets a flag on the play and ejection from the game.
I do find it odd that both of these incidents come from British writers. Odd yet not so odd. These characters both could be seen as the last vestiges of White Man’s Burden or example of White Man’s Privilege. That as the default viewpoint in the world, the very act of using characters of color of any kind in any way should be seen as an advance and as very enlightenment behavior on their part.
That or bullshit.
Jezebel Jet and Golliwogg exist in the comics industry, in the marketplace, doing their work, for good or for ill, on the minds of readers.
Yet how does this really affect me? Or affect the existence of more characters of color in comics? Or creators?
When is paying attention to such things being vigilant?
When is it being hypersensitive and overreacting?
At a time when there is a serious black politician who has a chance at becoming President of the United States, issues of race are back in the air and on a lot of people’s minds.
I just don’t want to go all Greg Rucka on this either.
And it isn’t all bad news.
The good news is Black Panther, The Atom, and Blue Beetle are still being published.
A number of superteam books are taking on a more multicultural look. Titles like the Justice League of America, New Warriors, Infinity, Inc., and The New Avengers. Even the Fantastic Four for a time hosted the Black Panther and Storm as members.
More good news.
Could the comics industry do better? Yes, of course. But they would have to be given enough incentive to do so, both from within and without the industry. It’s no coincidence that a number of those multi-culti team books are written by men of color. It’s not a secret agenda, but I’m sure those creators feel that a more balanced team is more reflective of the real world. That kind of realism most people can understand, right?
Another piece of good news is the upcoming black superhero prose anthology, The Darker Mask edited by Gary Phillips and Christopher Chambers, is due this summer. A number of writers inside and outside of comics, fans of comics and perhaps not, are writing stories of black superheroes. Could some of the names who do work here find themselves working for Marvel and DC or on creator owned superhero and other comics projects of their own? If The Big Two were smart, they would recruit some of the writers in this book. And other publishers would be smart to approach them as well.
As I said above, a black man has a serious chance to be President.
The time, they are indeed a’changing. Slowly, of course. Not entirely without difficulty. Some would rather die than give up their long held beliefs. And die they will in time. And the new generations coming up will hopefully adopt different views.
It’s just the waiting and having to deal with the last gasps of dying false world views that gets me down.
Instead of looking for trouble and bitching about, maybe I need a different tactic myself.
To follow Gandhi’s advice, I need to ask myself how can I be the change I want to see?
As I work with the mule and plow into those forty acres all of my own.
BOOK(S) OF THE WEEK
As promised a few weeks ago last year, here’s a more proper review of Casanegra by Blair Underwood, Tananarive Due, and Steven Barnes, published by Atria Books.
Casanegra tells us the first adventure of Tennyson “Ten” Hardwick, struggling actor and former gigolo, attempting to avoid being cast as Buppie number two for the rest of his days. When Ten decides to stop into Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles, he encounters a former client. An encounter that later finds our hero being accused of murder and struggling to play the part of detective to save his life.
In a manner similar to Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins books, Casanegra takes the reader on a tour of Southern California and the various places where blacks live and don’t live, giving its readers insight into modern life here in La La Land.
I found Tennyson a fascinating character, wounded as much by his sex worker past as by his upbringing with his hero cop father, and struggling to come to terms with the switching of roles as his father is slowly recovering from a stroke. The rest of the cast--Mother, Ten’s former madam, April Forest, intrepid reporter, and Chela, the troublesome teenage escort who adopts and is adopted by Ten--are marvelous characters. The twists and turn of the mystery satisfy at near every turn. And the chance to see into the sexual politics of rap was definitely worth the price of admission. I can’t but must wait to read the second installment of the series.
(Digression: the running gag for the series is the titles of each book are plays on classic film titles. Casablanca becomes Casanegra, see? The second will be titled In The Night Of The Heat)
If I had any complaints about the book, it would be there wasn’t enough good old fashioned violence in it. I’m used to the hero nearly getting killed in the book. And I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, but I could feel how this book was being skewed--rightly or wrongly--towards an audience primarily made of black women. So sex was given a bit more attention than violence. Which didn’t bother me. But I thought Ten was rather passive, even when he was kicking ass, and the violence was a bit distant feeling. I can’t tell which author’s doing this was, but this was the one disappointment for me.
Not enough to keep me away, though. Just enough to know that any black men--or any men, period--reading might feel this is a hero for the ladies, not the fellas. And not just a hero.
ALBUM(S) OF THE WEEK
This week’s album (yes, I’m an old man of 39; I don’t do the download thing, I still buy compact discs and call them albums) is Broadway The Hard Way by Frank Zappa. The version I have was released by Rykodisc working with Zappa’s own Barking Pumpkin Records in 1989. The album was recorded live during a mammoth world tour and is simply a masterpiece.
Frank Zappa, probably best known of his one hit Valley Girl, was a musical genius and iconoclast, capable of mixing and matching musical styles better than a DJ working at the hottest night club in your town. It goes from rock to jazz to blues to strange flights of fancy, oftentimes during the same song. Amazing. More modern artists like Beck and Moby just can’t touch this.
How can you go wrong with songs like “Elvis Has Just Left The Building”, “Jezebel Boy”, “Dickie’s Such An Asshole”, and “Planet Of The Baritone Women”?
Broadway The Hard Way finds Zappa and his band of regulars (Ike Willis, Bobby Martin, and many others) playing a wide variety of songs as easy as breathing. And Sting makes a cameo appearance, singing Murder By Numbers.
This is also late 80s Zappa, so the album is full of politics and political jabs at the PMRC and the Reagan Administration.
Do yourself a favor and buy this.
FEAR AND LOATHING, HOPE AND WONDER ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL 2008
This is scary, writing about politics. I expect to learn more about the subject as I explore it.
In that sense, I probably have more in common with Barack Obama than just the color of our skin.
The campaign to replace our 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush is well under way, as of this writing. With the first caucuses and primaries having been held in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, the best and most important horse race of them is off and running.
And I’m already sick of it.
For the first time in American history, a woman and a black man are not only running for the highest elected office in our land but both appear to have a real chance of winning. That amazes me.
What doesn’t amaze is how ugly the Clintons have turned the game this early. I guess Bubba, er, I mean Pres. Clinton really is hot to get Hillary into the White House. Maybe she’s promised to get off his back once and for all if he pulls off this miracle. And he’s working it harder than the girls at the Wild Goose.
Unfortunately, it might end up costing them the black vote in South Carolina.
[See how I said ‘them’? As if electing Hillary is equal to reelecting Bill. As if.]
And Obama already has enough of a problem there as it is. On Thursday morning, as I lay in bed trying not to arise too early, I listened to NPR’s Morning Edition and their report on the campaign in South Carolina. It was hearing one voter, obviously white from his comments, say that without sounding racist or anything like it on the microphone, he didn’t think “we” were ready for Obama as President. “We” who? White people? Southern whites? Who? I thought sleep would eliminate the memory of this piece of silly nonsense from my mind but obviously it did not.
We’ve come so far and not far at all.
In other quarters, on the Democratic side of the election, it’s looking as if a fight between race and gender is a’brewing. Whether Obama or Hillary likes it or not.
I don’t see why such a thing would happen anyway. Whenever it comes down to decisions on race or gender, Americans tend to do the right thing, by gum.
Which is make sure the white woman gets her way.
I mean, let’s look at it. There are 14 white women in the Senate, including Hillary. There is one black senator. Guess who?
So, once again, the line forms behind the white women.
And if it sounds like I’m not digging on the Hillary love fest, then you are quite correct.
I loved Bubba. I thought the American mindset during the 1990s was upbeat and positive. I felt good and whenever I heard my president speak I could walk away feeling good about even the most depressing topic or problem facing the American people. I loved President Clinton so much that I found myself glued to C-SPAN one day a few years ago as a video tape of him speaking to a University of Arkansas political science class played. I was enthralled by his analysis of his years in the White House, warts and all.
But Hillary gives me the willies. I can’t put it into words but every time i hear her speak it makes me nervous. i worry about her being anywhere near the Big Red Button or being Commander In Chief. I almost see a tiny, neon Falklands sign floating above her head. And don’t get me started on her claim of more experience than Obama. What experience? Being First Lady counts? Besides that, Hillary is only a two term senator herself. So she has six years more experience than Obama. Experience that had her voting for the Bush tax cuts and going to war in Iraq and dooming America to staying there for a decade or more.
(Yes, yes, I know, we’ve been promised, after a fashion, that electing a Democrat would bring the troops home. Far from it, my brothers and sisters. We broke Iraq therefore we bought it. Until those people get their shit together, America will stay, has to stay. To do otherwise is to invite even more folly. And I’m not talking terrorists, the boogeyman of the 21st century, I’m talking about America’s reputation abroad. America will look like, quite frankly, chicken shit pussies if we leave Iraq before they are a stable country once more. So there we will stay. Meaning if y’all know any servicemen and women, honor them for their work and sacrifice. Because you ain’t doing it. I know I’m not.)
We were always told to fear Big Brother. No one said be afraid of Big Momma. And Hillary is Big Momma. Yikes!
Meanwhile, the Republicans are lost without their usual heir apparent on the scene. GW has made sure that his brother Jeb won’t get a shot, at least this time out. And George P. Bush, the Hispanic sleeper agent in the Bush family, isn’t on the general public’s political radar yet (I say, give it until late 2010 when that happens). McCain, Romney, Giuliani, Huckabee, and Paul are probably nice people. But, as a lifelong Democrat, I can’t trust a single one of them; I’d much rather stick to the liars I know (read: the Democrats) than the ones I don’t. Besides, the Republicans all seem so, well, white bread to me. Tax cuts, strong defense, no more immigrants, blah, blah, blah. Haven’t we been listening to this same record since Reagan? Or was it Eisenhower? Time to change tunes, y’all, time to get some new music playing in the Republican Party.
However, I’m just having fun watching the Republicans go about their business.
And, as Sun Tzu advised, I’m learning about my enemy. Not that I consider the Republicans my enemies. But they do play on the opposite side of the street politically, so it does behoove me to be aware of what they are doing.
Although, I have to admit to liking Huckabee. Any politician who can get Chuck Norris and Rick Flair The Naaaature Boy to stump for him can’t be all bad. Except that whole conservative Christian thing.
And with Super Duper Tuesday on the horizon, the horses, I mean, the candidates are a’running hard and fast and the mud is just starting to fly. Ah, I love a good election.
COMICS OF THE WEEK
For the comics I want to talk about this time, I’ve chosen Tarot, Witch of The Black Rose #43-47 by Jim Balent and Holly Golightly, published by BroadSword Comics.
Balent, best known for his work on Catwoman during the 90s, started BroadSword and Tarot nearly eight years ago. And has never looked back.
I love this book. Jim Balent is the consummate good girl artist, not only drawing beautiful women, but drawing them as beautiful no matter their shape. You can tell that Balent loves women by the way he draws them. Which is often and almost always nude. Yet the nudity reflects the beliefs of the heroine and possibly Balent himself. Even though Tarot has gotten a bad reputation amongst some fan circles for being nearly porn, it is undeserved.
Holly Golighty’s colors on the book are the other joy in reading this title. Her color choices are bright and vibrant, being both realistic and fantastic when needed and in the right proportions. She could teach a number of colorists a thing or two about coloring for comics.
Issue #43, Dead Leaves, finds out titular heroine falling into a realm of dead and dying dreams seeking connection to a living being in order to survive. After finding her way back to normal reality, Tarot talks with the young witch who inadvertently caused the problem in the first place. Now, what comic dramatizes the importance of following and not killing one’s dreams? I ask you.
The back-up story finds the hero of the book, The Skeleton Man, in one of his usual comedic situations. The story works and is funny, but I do wish Balent would do one serious adventure with him. I’m all for the new age sensitive man and the man as second banana to the heroine. But can a guy have an adventure on his own and be a bit more macho?
Issues #44-47 feature the four part story The Witch Key. In this story, Tarot finds herself along with a number of other witches kidnapped by a villain, a Bleeding Man, who seeks the key to magickal power. What ensues is four issues of naked witches fighting and suffering at the hands of a madman before they earn their freedom.
As a writer, Jim Balent understands and often using Tarot’s internal monologue as actual narrative and a descriptive tool, conveying in words what he does not in pictures, instead of merely giving us a running tally of Tarot’s thoughts. The writing can be a bit preachy, in favor of witchcraft, the struggles of being a witch, a woman’s sexuality, the limited and limiting views of mainstream society, and others. However, since there are few outlets for such voices, it’s excusable.
Overall, Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose mixes sex and sensuality, superhero iconography, mythology, fantasy, and the religion of Wicca into a wonderful read. It’s not Watchmen or Maus, but this title does what a good comic should do: entertain its readers.
MOVIE(S) OF THE WEEK
While everyone is talking about Cloverfield, I haven’t seen it yet. I’m not sure if I will. I tend to go against the hype and popular tastes.
The film I want to talk about this time has only one thing in common with Cloverfield: it was filmed with a handycam.
Happy? from Wicked Pictures and written and directed by David Stanley caught me by surprise. Not in the sense that I rented or bought something else and discovered it was porn. It surprised me as this was truthfully the first adult movie I watched for the story.
I must be getting old.
Happy? tells the story of writer Andy, played by Randy Spears, and his struggle over whether to stay married to his beautiful wife Marge, played by the aptly name Exotica, or to try his luck elsewhere. The typical mid-life crisis of any man. I know, the story sounds flimsy, and it is.
What makes it an interesting film is Stanley’s direction. With his movies, I get the feeling that Stanley has accepted that he shoots porn for a living and most viewers will probably fast forward to the sex scenes. That acceptance appears to have freed him creatively, for his movies are surreal romps and Happy? is no exception. From the ubiquitous cup cakes in nearly every frame of film to the sudden appearance of a ham sandwich in a strip joint champagne room just in time for Spears to eat as he watches a stripper and a client make the beast with two backs on a couch, there is no way any viewer can feel he or she is watching a representation of reality on the screen.
And that’s the point.
This is an adult film, after all. Porn. Sex doesn’t look this good or is this neat.
The performances by Spears, Exotica, and the rest of the cast in the sex scenes are good. I mean, it’s porn, after all. It’s the acting in-between those scenes, especially Spears’ running narration throughout, that takes Happy? to a different level of porn viewing.
I liked it, which is more than I can usually say for any Hollywood offering these days.
If you’re of legal age, check it out.
But don’t tell me about it.
THE TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT THIS TIME
It looks like the Wonder Woman Playboy cover is still bothering some fans this week, with Greg Rucka having the strangest reaction I’ve ever seen. I mean, really. I just don’t think the Illuminati are scared of Hillary becoming president to sabotage her by having a Playmate Of The Year pose as Wonder Woman on the cover of Playboy. Besides, Hillary might already be in the Illuminati.
And ComicsPRO is complaining about convention sales of comics cutting into their business. Now, I work retail and have seen this happen but it is the nature of the direct market to force everyone involved to view everyone else as their competition. No wonder the comics industry is still struggling while comics are so far into the public consciousness that it is only the comics industry itself that holds itself back. No wonder the manga publishers are above the fray: they are playing a different game.
But the real Tempest In A Teapot this time is my anger at my cat for pissing on my copy of the Captain America Omnibus. I was madder than hell about this when I found out. I spent $50 on that book and it was ruined.
Then I remembered that I thought the book sucked and was more angry at spending money for the thing.
So the anger went away.
One tempest down and who knows how many to go.
We’ll see what the Internet has to offer next time. So, please y’all out there, lose your minds over something stupid, will ya?
GOOD DAY, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK
And that should do it for this time, folks.
I mean, I should hope so. I gave you dear readers a lot to read, a lot to think about, and hopefully some new things to enjoy on your own.
I hope you will drop me a line or post a comment and let me know what you think of the new look.
Until next time, take care of yourselves, willya?
Copyright 2006- 2010 Marc Mason/Comics Waiting Room. All rights reserved